First of all, I base the content of this unit off the feedback I received from data from my previous unit: Link to Life of Pi Unit Information or Link to Ender's Game Unit Information
Based off the information gleaned from this unit my students need help with annotations, especially annotations that are meaningful and helpful for them and not just to meet a number or page requirement. They need basic review/instruction surrounding some literary terms. They also need to know how to analyze the purpose of those literary terms. They also need to know how to sustain a focused conversation about a piece of literature that is about more than just saying what they know. They need to listen closely to their peers and then build on and challenge the ideas presented using evidence from the text. Finally, they need to take all of this and consolidate it into one large, published essay. They struggled with the concept of theme, so the literary analysis essay at the end will focus on this element.
I believe that it is incredibly important to let students know from day 1 how to earn the grade that they want. I always start my units with a review of the rubrics that I will be using. This unit is no different. Day 1 involves review of the annotations rubric (I grade for character development, plot progression and literary devices during this unit).
I also introduce the essay topics on this day so that students can keep these in mind as they annotate for the literary device of theme. Here are the essay topics for this essay:
How does Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees fit into a larger conversation about social injustice?
- Issues of women's rights
- Issues of immigration
- Issues of race
- Issues of poverty
What does The Bean Trees reveal about injustice in society? After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, write an essay that describes and identifies how she uses the elements of fiction to develop a theme on a specific social injustice and addresses the above question. Support your discussion with evidence from the text.
I spend a significant amount of time during this unit modeling annotations for students. I focus on avoiding over-annotating and really annotating in a way that will help them with all of the summative work they will be asked to do. I model annotations almost daily for students. I emphasize writing in short-hand (these are notes, not paragraphs), noticing the interaction between literary elements (plot, character, literary devices and theme) - just the idea that none of these aspects stands alone and ALWAYS connecting the annotations back to theme (which is what the summative assignment for this unit will ask them to analyze). Here are some samples from the daily annotaiton modeling that happens in class:
Each day students are asked to participate in a Socratic Seminar. I divide the class in half. Half of the class is on the inside (participating/discussing the text) and the other half is providing support in various forms.
Students are allowed to participate only if they have completed their reading and annotations and have written three open-ended questions. I check this while everyone gets set up.
Students on the outside are asked to fulfill different roles:
Sharing Tracker: tracks who shares
Content Vocabulary Tracker: tracks who uses the content vocabulary they are being asked to analyze via the annotation rubric
Reference Tracker: tracks who references the text indirectly (summary/paraphrase) and directly
Transition Tracker: tracks who is using transitions (I agree,,,, I disagree..., To add on to that....)
Big Board: Writes a summary of the discussion. Here is an example of a summary from Chapter 4:
All other students on the outside serve as coaches. They are assigned a partner on the inside and they complete the following questions in order to help their partner out:
Today, rather than evaluating the entire seminar, you will be evaluating and giving feedback to one member of the seminar. This should be the person, your "partner", seated directly in front of you. Your job is to track their performance, and their performance only. You will be offering them feedback, so that they can improve in the future. Please answer all of the questions below as thoroughly as possible.
- How many times did your "partner" share?
- How many times did your "partner" make a direct reference to the text?
- What evidence did you see of your "partner" asking questions to stimulate discussion?
- What evidence did you see of your "partner" building on the ideas of others?
- What evidence did you see of your "partner" clearly expressing their ideas?
- What evidence did you see of your "partner" incorporating others into the conversation?
- After the mid-point "conference", what improvements, if any, did you see in the contributions made by your partner?
- What was your "partner's" strongest contribution to the Socratic Seminar today?
- What was your "partner's" greatest need for improvement in regards to the Seminar today?
- How did your "partner", and their contributions, help to clarify your understanding of the novel?
The first two seminars are for experience and students receive written feedback but full credit regardless of their participation. The next seminars are formative and they are graded on the rubric. Near the end, the seminars are summative and students receive credit based on the rubric entirely.
Each day, in addition to the seminars, I complete a mini-less on a literary element and model annotations for that element.
Here are some photos of the "Big Board" role from later chapters. I am so proud of my students. They started with discussions that required a lot of prompting and involvement from me and were focused largely on "What will happen next?" questions. However, as the unit progressed, the students have become much better at exactly what I was hoping they would master: a LITERARY discussion considering aspects like author's purpose and theme. The discussions have also become much more student-led and driven. The students also helped me to create another role: Complimentor - the job of this person is to offer sincere, constructive compliments to peers who are doing well. This started as a filler role (we had one extra person on the outside and I just made it up), but the students have enjoyed it so much that I am considering integrating it every year from now on.
At one point in this unit I stopped and retaught some aspects that it seemed the students were struggling with. We reviewed how to annotate for plot. After the first annotation check it seemed that many students were not fully understanding this. I also noticed that many students were either massively over or under annotating, so we annotated for everything for a five page chunk together as a lesson one day